PhD Progress: Upgrade Completed and Plans for 2013

So I am now exactly half way through my PhD, or at least half way through the three years of funding. On December 14th I successfully upgraded and progress is very much on track. For those unfamiliar with the process of completing a doctorate, the upgrade is an exercise which has to be passed to enable continuation on the PhD programme. The exact process varies between institutions and subjects but I handed in a 20,000 word document with three thesis chapters: introduction, literature review and methodology which was examined/discussed in a meeting type setting. I didn’t need to show results and analysis but had initial results I could talk about. The upgrade felt like a milestone moment and gave me the opportunity to reflect on what I’ve achieved so far. It also gave me the opportunity to speak to another academic in the department and get lots of feedback for future ideas and development of the project.

This time last year I was struggling with my methodology and had been asked to go back and spend a few weeks reading up on the philosophy of knowledge and academic theory. This year has been a steep learning curve but I worked as hard as I could and am proud of what I’ve achieved. It was always going to be difficult moving from fashion to geography but I finally feel like I’m catching up. I’m now in the data collection phase which is super exciting; going out and talking to people (interviewing them). For every interview I’ve had at least one thing they say which jumps out at me and tells me it has been a worthwhile trip. Interviews will continue well into next year; I’ve done 11 so far but anticipate around 40, or until I reach ‘saturation’. On top of all the reading and writing (I think my Endnote reference library has reached 300 now) here are some of the things I did in 2012:

• Supervised the Amsterdam 2nd year undergrad. fieldtrip and couple of daytrips
• Presented a paper at the Green Economics Institute Conference in Oxford
• Teaching assistant for 2nd year undergrad. Critical Human Geographies module
• Set up the department twitter and contributed to the blog (geographypostgrads.com)
• Presented at the Grad. School Seminar Series and had a poster at the Grad. School Conference.

2013 is set to be just as busy. In the next three months alone I have data analysis training courses in Southampton and Cardiff, I’m going back on the Amsterdam fieldtrip, I’m presenting a poster at the RIBEN day in Oxford, I’m presenting a paper at the BSA ‘Intimacies, Families and Practices of Consumption’ conference, and I’m organising my own conference on ethical fashion! My goal for the year (and I don’t have any personal resolutions this year) is to get an academic paper published, or at the very least in review.

Content that I know what I’m doing and I don’t feel the need to prove myself anymore, I think 2013 will be a good year! There have been times when this PhD has had me in tears, but I’m past that point now of letting it get to me. Plus I have excellent supervisors and a great group of friends at uni so I’m still as excited about it all as much as I was when I started, maybe more so. I would recommend to anyone starting the New Year in a job they hate to do something about it. It is always possible to change direction with a positive attitude and bit of focus. Oh I have a mentee this year too! Yep, it’s going to be a busy one . . .

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